Op­po­si­tion urges Trudeau: con­front Trump on refugees

Prime min­is­ter told to de­nounce travel ban when he meets with U.S. pres­i­dent

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - JOANNA SMITH

OT­TAWA The Lib­eral gov­ern­ment is hold­ing the line on its im­mi­gra­tion and refugee pol­icy in the wake of the U.S. travel ban, but leav­ing the door open to fu­ture ad­just­ments as they con­tinue to study the far-reach­ing — and fastchang­ing — im­pli­ca­tions.

“We have a very ro­bust and wel­com­ing refugee sys­tem,” Im­mi­gra­tion Min­is­ter Ahmed Hussen said Tues­day.

“We don’t de­velop pol­icy on the fly. We have to make sure that we un­der­stand all the im­pli­ca­tions, to make sure that we stick to our num­bers and make sure that we de­velop pol­icy af­ter care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion of all the im­pli­ca­tions.”

The Lib­eral cab­i­net min­is­ter was re­spond­ing to calls — in­clud­ing from the New Democrats — to do more to fill the gaps left by U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s tem­po­rary im­mi­gra­tion ban on peo­ple from seven Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­tries and his in­def­i­nite bar on Syr­ian refugees.

“Canada must step up to do its part,” said NDP im­mi­gra­tion critic Jenny Kwan. “There is much more that Canada can do and must do.”

At Kwan’s re­quest, MPs held an emer­gency de­bate Tues­day evening on the U.S. travel ban and how Canada should re­spond.

In the de­bate, NDP Leader Tom Mul­cair urged the gov­ern­ment to lift an “ar­ti­fi­cial, ar­bi­trary” cap on the num­ber of Syr­ian refugees who can be brought to Canada through pri­vate spon­sor­ships, which is cur­rently set at 1,000 ap­pli­ca­tions — a tar­get that was reached over the weekend.

“A cap such as this one, es­pe­cially when the United States has banned ad­mis­sion to Syr­ian refugees for an in­de­ter­mi­nate time is com­pletely un­ac­cept­able and goes against the in­ter­na­tional law that has been ad­vo­cated since the Sec­ond World War,” Mul­cair said.

In a weekend tweet that was seen as a thinly veiled re­sponse to Trump’s mea­sures, Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau pro­moted Canada as a coun­try that wel­comes refugees, no matter their re­li­gion, and con­sid­ers the di­ver­sity of its peo­ple to be a strength.

Dur­ing ques­tion pe­riod on Tues­day, Mul­cair asked Trudeau whether he plans to de­nounce the U.S. travel ban when he meets Trump.

“Cana­di­ans ex­pect their prime min­is­ter to stand up for their val­ues, for our prin­ci­ples, and to ad­vo­cate com­pas­sion and gen­eros­ity,” Trudeau replied.

“It’s the best way to pro­tect and pro­mote our val­ues, our strong com­mu­ni­ties, our united com­mu­ni­ties, I will al­ways do that. I am here to de­fend Cana­dian val­ues and I will do so loudly and clearly.”

Trudeau and Trump are in­deed ex­pected to meet at some point in the com­ing days.

Kwan said she wants to see the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment back up its mes­sage with poli­cies.

“We now need to en­sure that there is a plan to match those words.”

On Sun­day, Hussen said Canada would grant tem­po­rary res­i­dent visas to any­one who is stranded here be­cause of the ban, but Kwan said that does not go far enough.

The NDP also wants the gov­ern­ment to fast-track the ac­cep­tance of refugees who had been ap­proved to go to the U.S. and whose fu­tures are now in limbo. Hussen, how­ever, said the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment plans to stick to its cur­rent plans, which he said in­cludes a “his­toric high” of 16,000 pri­vately-spon­sored refugees.

The UN High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees has said about 20,000 refugees might have been re­set­tled in the States dur­ing the pe­riod cov­ered by Trump’s sus­pen­sion or­der.

The New Democrats want Canada to sus­pend the safe third coun­try refugee agree­ment with the U.S. and to work with part­ners around the world to deal with the sud­den short­fall in refugee re­set­tle­ment.

They also want greater as­sur­ances for those cross­ing into the U.S. from Canada.

The Lib­eral gov­ern­ment has said they were re­as­sured by Michael Flynn, the U.S. na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, that the ban would not ap­ply to those trav­el­ling on a Cana­dian pass­port, in­clud­ing dual cit­i­zens, or peo­ple with a valid Cana­dian per­ma­nent res­i­dent card.

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